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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — A grieving daughter on Friday said she wanted to share who her mother, JoEllen Browning, was, instead of the “untrue” information that has been released since her murder in 2019.
Her mother was a “Wonder Woman,” who was “strong, driven and beautiful,” Elizabeth Adrianse, the daughter of JoEllen and Roy Browning, said during her father’s sentencing for second-degree murder in the April 2019 stabbing death of her mother.
JoEllen Browning, 65, she said, was a hardworking woman who loved her family and made every holiday and most days special, whether it involved making Halloween costumes or just making breakfast in a fun way for her and her brother.
She wasn’t an “entertainment” story or a true crime show, she said.
Adrianse also talked about the judicial system being broken and how the criminal justice process — the prosecution of her father — had taken away or interfered with the family’s time to grieve.
Roy Carl Browning Jr., 70, of Iowa City, originally charged with first-degree murder, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in October, entering an Alford plea, in which a defendant doesn’t admit guilt but admits the prosecution has enough evidence for a likely conviction.
Sixth Judicial District Judge Kevin McKeever on Friday sentenced Browning to 50 years in prison. He must serve a mandatory 35 years before being eligible for parole, so the sentence amounts to a life term.
He also must pay $150,000 in restitution to JoEllen Browning’s estate or heirs.
During sentencing, Roy Browning maintained his innocence and said he would prove it to her family one day. He also complained about having to stay in jail since he was arrested in October 2019.
He then started to cry and said his wife was “perfection in so many ways,” and his memories of his wife kept him going during his time in jail.
“Jo makes heaven a better place,” he said. “I will miss her and love her so much.”
JoEllen Browning’s siblings also submitted victim impact statements read by Johnson County Attorney Janet Lyness. They described their sister as kind, caring and loving. She was the family “peacemaker,” the one who gave the “best tight hugs.”
Nancy Wall, one of three sisters, described her as “home.” “Nobody can take away our memories of her,” Wall said. “I will miss her and love her forever.”
Larry Wall, JoEllen’s brother, said she always made time for others but not enough time for herself.
“Our hurt will never go away,” sister Barbara Gerend said. “She was the most loving — she had a heart of gold.”
Jane Wall said JoEllen was looking forward to retirement and wanted to travel and spend time with the grandchildren she might have someday. She never got to meet her two grandsons because she was killed before they were born.
According to court documents, Roy Browning stabbed his wife multiple times April 5, 2019, before she could find out about his risky, high-interest loans and falsified accounting records and that he had depleted one of her savings accounts.
Investigators said they determined JoEllen Browning, a University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics budget executive, was going to learn from a banking official about her husband’s loans and concealed bookkeeping. She had scheduled a meeting April 5, 2019, for them to meet with a financial representative.
She had emailed her husband April 1, asking about the discrepancies in their bank accounts, according to court documents. She told her husband to contact their bank to ensure he could log into their account so the couple could review the accounts that night.
Authorities said about 20 minutes after Roy Browning responded to his wife that he was aware of the April 5, 2019, meeting, he was at a paint supply store buying rubber gloves and towels, which police said they never found.
Roy Browning called 911 at 6:59 a.m. April 5, 2019, reporting his wife was “unresponsive.” Police found her on the bedroom floor with multiple stab wounds to her front and back torso and on her left hand, according to court documents. A forensic pathologist determined the cause of death was “sharp-force injuries” — stab wounds — and her death was ruled a homicide.
During the investigation, authorities learned JoEllen Browning had a retirement account and life insurance policy worth more than $2 million, according to court documents. Her husband had no source of income.
According to court documents, Roy Browning is executor of his wife’s will, which is in probate pending the outcome of the case against him.
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